Branson's Virgin Galactic cuts short key test flight

"Pilots and vehicles back safe and sound," the company said.

Virgin Galactic’s space tourism rocket plane SpaceShipTwo returns after a test flight from Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California, U.S. December 13, 2018.  (photo credit: GENE BLEVINS / REUTERS)
Virgin Galactic’s space tourism rocket plane SpaceShipTwo returns after a test flight from Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California, U.S. December 13, 2018.
(photo credit: GENE BLEVINS / REUTERS)
Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc cut short a key test flight of its suborbital SpaceShipTwo Unity plane on Saturday, though the reason was not immediately provided.
Richard Branson's space tourism company, which is preparing for commercial flights next year, was aiming to send its air-launched vehicle to an altitude as high as 50 miles to test its cabin experience and boosters in-flight.
"Pilots and vehicles back safe and sound," the company said in a Twitter post, before adding: "Early update on flight: The ignition sequence for the rocket motor did not complete. Vehicle and crew are in great shape. We have several motors ready at Spaceport America. We will check the vehicle and be back to flight soon."
For $250,000 a ticket, passengers who have signed up for the suborbital flight aboard the plane, dubbed Unity, will strap into six tailored, teal-colored seats and peer out of the cabin's 12 circular windows as they ascend some 60 miles above Earth.
The company, founded in 2004 by British billionaire Branson, has 600 customers signed up to fly and more than 400 more who have expressed interest, with Branson expected to be aboard one of the first flights.